Kaijudo Dojo Edition: Bull Rush Review (Part 1 of 2)
True story. Last May, the Ertai’s Lament team headed down the pike to Louisville to check out the Star City Games Open. For Jimi and Sam, this was the first time they’d ever been to a large Magic event, and while we weren’t there to play in the tournament, we did want to take in some side events, browse the merchants, and just have a good time. Off to the side in the far corner of the room was a table set up for the live stream commentators, and at one point when circling about we found two gentlemen there having a discussion.
“Look, Sam,” I said, pointing them out, “Magic pros.”
I’ve never been a person particularly impressed with celebrity. I’ve been in the same room as Mikhail Gorbachev, breathed the same air as Gerry Adams, and even tried to bum some change off of Wierd Al Yankovic, so my view on the celebrity culture of Magic is fairly dim. That said, looking past the ego and avarice there are some top blokes who play the game at the highest levels, and these gentlemen were two of them. On the left stood Conley Woods, a member of Team Fireball, writer for TCGPlayer and frequent guest on Monday Night Magic.
On the right was Gavin Verhey. Verhey had been a founding member of Monday Night Magic, wrote for Star City Games, had played in the Community Cup the year prior and had even won a “design a Duel Deck for MTGO” contest Wizards had recently held. If there were two players I’d be delighted to have serve as Sam’s first impression into the world of “professional Magic,” these there them. Sam took out her Sharpie and playmat and went up to them. Warm and courteous throughout, she came back beaming with two fresh autographs.
We couldn’t have known it then, but both gentlemen were soon to be destined for greater things with Wizards of the Coast. Woods’ known deckbuilding skills would land him a gig on the mothership, writing the Daily Deck List- always a great (and quick) read even if Constructed really isn’t your preferred format. Verhey, meanwhile, would be hired on by Wizards.
Like many who have come to Renton, Verhey didn’t immediately get set to designing Magic cards straightaway. Although a developer for the forthcoming Gatecrash, he also has served as a designer and developer for Kaijudo. And to bring this narrative to the cards themselves, he was the designer of today’s deck, Bull Rush.
Kaijudo has followed a rather unusual path to the marketplace, in large part due to the need to tie the game to the release of the animated television series. The first product to hit the shelves wasn’t a card set, but rather a single preconstructed product in Battle Decks: Tatsurion vs Razorkinder. This was followed with a limited release set in August, the Dojo Edition, which was comprised of a pool of 60 cards as well as a single preconstructed deck which we’re looking at today.
Test the Weapons
Bull Rush, as the name implies, is a beatdown-style deck with a number of similarities to Tatsurion’s original deck in the Battle Decks line. Indeed, having two of the game’s first three precons being the exact same colours, when one full civilisation (Light) goes without is something of a mystery. In addition, comparing the two decks side-by-side, you don’t find a great deal of variation:
As we go through, it will be worth noting the subtle differences that give Bull Rush its own identity. For instance, although Bull Rush is more creature-heavy, it’s a touch less aggressive right out of the gate as it only includes two copies of Blaze Belcher, the deck’s one-drop. As we’ve noted before, the card is a bit unusual in that it’s a one-mana 1000 that has a traditionally Red drawback- having to attack each turn. Those whose game leans more towards Magic will know that typically you need enticements to play 1/1 one-drops, not drawbacks. Kaijudo, however, is a different animal, where victory is not determined by damage output, but rather by number of blows struck. The humble Blaze Belcher hits shields just as hard as Tatsurion himself, and for that reason you see the drawback.
In the two-drop slot, we see a couple other familiar faces in the Ambush Scorpion, a vanilla 2000, and Essence Elf. Although the Elf is fairly weak, its nature’s gift ability can make your army considerably stronger when deployed. But we also have some new faces as well. First, there’s a pair of Drakon Weaponsmiths, which balance out the same as the Scorpion but have a variable power depending on the role they are playing. Sitting still, they are only 1000 strong, but gain an additional 2000 when swinging in on the attack. And Chief Many-Tribes is another utility 1000 creature. A ramp card, he rewards you for having at least two other Nature creatures in play by giving you a free card into your mana zone. Given the sometimes painful decisions you have to make as to which card you’ll sacrifice from your hand to build your mana, it’s a welcome bring-along.
A similar ability is in play with the quillspike harvest of the Razorhide, another new creature. This 2000 rewards you for being aggressive, giving you a free card into your mana zone each time you attack with it. For pure damage value for money, you have a pair of on-curve Gatling Skyterrors, 3000’s for three mana. There’s also a Little Hissy, slightly less robust at 2000 but a specialist at eliminating your opponent’s non-combatant utility creatures since it can attack the untapped.
The deck does the bulk of its lifting in the four-drop slot, with an impressive starting eleven. Many of these are cards we’ve seen with Tatsurion before, but as above there are a few new faces to keep things fresh. The Bronze-Arm Tribe is a weenie creature and ramping spell all in once card, giving you a free mana as it enters the battlefield. The Pyro Trooper shares the aggressive leanings of its junior kin, the Weaponsmith, giving the same ability (powerful attack +2000) on a larger body. The on-curve vanilla option is present here as well with a trio of Simian Trooper Grashes. Draglide the Swiftest is only half the size of the Simians, but looks to make up for it with fast attack (aka haste).
Our new options begin with Om Nom Nom, a much larger Burn Belly than its diminutive kin the Blaze Belcher. Om Nom Nom suffers from the same drawback of having to attack each turn if able (cleverly named still hungry! this time around), but in return gives you a 5000 body for your four mana. Aside from being a strong card, this gives you some insight as to what the game’s developers felt about the one-drop Blaze Belcher (a reason somewhat similar to why you see mechanical one-drops in Magic like Hada Freeblade and Slitherhead at uncommon rather than common).
Karate Carrot is a 3000 with a pair of useful abilities. Powerful attack +2000 lets it hit harder on offense similar to the Drakons, while unsliceable makes sure that even in defeat, the Karate Carrot has something useful to offer you. Finally, Gilaflame the Assaulter is another outsize beatstick coming in at 5000. As your deck’s very rare card, of course, there’s something else at work here. In this case, it’s the ability to attack straightaway before disappearing back to the relative safety of your hand. This essentially makes Gilaflame the Kaijudo equivalent of a Viashino Sandstalker, though because you can use your creatures to attack your opponent’s creatures (provided they are tapped), it also makes Gilaflame into something resembling repeatable removal. Nasty!
If you want to have a 5000 creature that sticks to the board rather than disappears each turn, then the Rumbling Terrasaur is just the card for you. The first of the deck’s top-of-curve beaters, it’s a simply on-curve vanilla option as we’ve seen at most points in the rest of the deck. The next creature up is the Forest Hornet. Another spell-effect tied to a creature, the Hornet gives one of your creatures a temporary +3000 boost before leaving behind a 3000 body.
Here also is your super rare, Quillspike Tatsurion. A Nature version of one of the game’s signature creatures (who is naturally a Nature/Flame hybrid), this Tatsurion has a more pronounced defensive element here. When attacked, his quillspike armor gives him +5000, making him almost impossible to kill by creature combat.
We’ve seen the next creature before, the Brave Giant. A seven-mana 7000 with double breaker, its another of the deck’s big finishers. Mightier still is the Bolt-Tail Dragon. Although the same size as the Giant and with double breaker to boot, the Dragon can swing the turn it enters the battlefield thanks to fast attack. All told, this Tatsurion-themed deck has a lot in common with the previous iteration, but with a number of new cards in the mix there’s some variety in gameplay. Next, we’ll take a look at the noncreature support suite.
Fire It Up!
Unfortunately, the noncreature cards here are almost identical to the first Tatsurion deck, a fact likely explained more by the limited card pool than any lack of creativity on the part of the Kaijudo designers. Although we’d soon see the first major card pool release a month later, at this point in time there wasn’t a lot to work with and the cards selected cover the basic bases quite well.
First, in a deck filled with fat you need to have some added ramp options, and the deck has a pair of Sprouts. Simply mana enablers, they have the added benefit of being shield blast cards that can give you a little helping hand when you might most need it. There’s also a “combat trick” in Overcharge, which gives your army a power boost as well as- critically- letting them go after untapped creatures. This can result in a blowout if you manage to decimate your opponent’s army, leaving you much more room to work with in getting to their shields.
The remaining cards are filled with removal options- never a bad thing. Return to the Soil is Nature removal, meaning that it has the drawback of giving your opponent a little extra mana in exchange for the creature you just banished. Return has a limit of level 4 (mana cost), while the more expensive Root Trap offers the same effect without limitation.
For Fire-based options, you get a Rock Bite, another shield blast card that ignores the mana cost and instead is limited by the creature’s power. For just one mana more you get a more generous power limit with Tornado Flame.
That’s it for the deck. We’ll put Bull Rush through the paces to see how it performs in combat, then return with a final result.